At the New York City Pride March, the revellers gathered to celebrate yet another successful Fourth of July celebration – and unite in celebration of the hard-won rights and civil rights that have made New York City the most LGBTQ-friendly community in the world. The huge turnout over the next few days, with millions gathered to both celebrate LGBTQ pride and celebrate that so many people in the world live free, equally, and equally well, has been well-documented.
However, this rally was larger than ever before — there were 1.75 million more people in attendance this year compared to last year. And at the end of this parade, with all eyes turned toward the Presidential Inauguration Ball, some saw a kindred spirit in Stonewall, the bar where the Stonewall Riot took place 44 years ago. For members of the LGBTQ community, it was the ceremonial space where Stonewall claimed its name — for it was there on June 28, 1969, that police raided and arrested a group of patrons seeking to celebrate their love and the legal changes that were happening at the time.
Today, many of the young people I met said that the sense of momentum is surreal and historic. “It seems like the news is breaking all the time”, said Olga Chekosyan, 23, “but it’s hard to explain why we feel so inspired to be in this space as a community”. For T. Brooke, there is just one recurring feeling that she gets from this year’s parade: “You feel it”.
These moments of unity, joy, and pride are rare in the current political climate. Witnessing such happiness and reaffirmation is what gives me hope for the future. On Sunday, the worlds’ oldest civil rights and human rights organisation, the Human Rights Campaign, joined with LGBTQ youth to welcome the new Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City and the sixth annual Rainbow Laces campaign, a series of fundraisers that will support LGBTQ youth. The fact that the human rights group that this movement started has taken time out of its celebrations to support LGBTQ youth is significant: Stonewall had to overcome massive opposition to our rights and fight for its very existence. But it took those four decades to achieve the rights we now take for granted.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of New York City played a warm soundtrack through the parade and revelers who were marching or simply stood watching were chanting along with the chant. “This is the beginning of the end of your oppression!” Some took photographs with their phones. Some fussed about how the merchandise had been wrongfully rejected by the vendors. Those who had tickets in hand climbed up to the 60 foot ceilings, on their way to catch a glimpse of the pageantry that was taking place just inches above their heads.
“This is a celebration that most businesses would have celebrated by putting you in a plastic box”, as one of the organizers told the crowd from the dais. The spirit that underpins the Pride March is one of love and gratitude for freedom and perseverance – and this is something that will endure.
“Stonewall is more relevant than ever”, agreed Justin Lyon, who is an entrepreneur and social activist. “This is a celebration of Pride, but it’s also a celebration of a moment in time when our rights needed to be protected. We would like to reflect upon that and do things in a different way.”
This is a moment in time that Stonewall helped to forge. Its forefathers are smiling down at us. Please join us in this celebration – or at least, allow this moment to inspire you.